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Ani Hovhannisyan

14 Kilometer Road Remains an Obstacle to Aghavni’s Dream of Getting an Education and a Job

The road leading to the village of Gegharkunik, in the Armenian province of the same name, is new.

Men coming back from working in Russia can be seen taking the snow covered road back to their village.

Vardan Aroyan is one of those men. Every time he returns from working in Russia, he pays off the family’s accrued debts at the bank. With the little left over, he tries to purchase something new for the house.

When we visited the village residents told us that Vardan’s family was the most exemplary in Gegharkunik.

His first wife passed away years ago, leaving him and his kids on their own. Vardan then remarried. Now, he and his second wife, Meri Makaryan, are raising five children. Some are from her former marriage.  

The extended family currently lives in a former animal shed. It’s not their property. The plot was allocated to Vardan in 1992 by the village municipality. He’s since changed the roof, furnished the inside, and started to farm the land. The family survives on what they grow. Vardan is now paying off the interest on four bank loans.

Vardan used to teach eastern martial arts and worked as a coach at the village school. Not being able to raise a family on the salary, he started to leave for Russia for seasonal work.

“You never know how things will turn out. Sometimes there’s no jobs to be had when you get there. I don’t even know where I’ll go this year. Since the ruble has devalued it doesn’t make sense to go to Russia,” Vardan says.

Despite the difficulties, the couple are complainers. Their main concern is Aghavni, their eldest girl. It’s her future, her education, that worries them the most.

Aghavni Aroyan, 21, has faced mobility problems from childhood. After graduating from the village school, Aghavni really has no place to go given the obstacles she faces to go to college. The couple sometimes takes Aghavni to Yerevan for rehabilitation courses.

When the family is gathered inside the house, they ask Aghavni to sing. The young woman loves to sing and obliges with a traditional tune. Singing is her hobby but Aghavni really wants to become an accountant. She wants to earn her own way and become more independent.

“There are accountant courses in Gavar, but since I have trouble walking it’s difficult for me to travel there. Secondly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been out and about. I get embarrassed a bit being amongst people. My parents do what they can, but I’d like to learn some skills in order to find a job and work,” says Aghavni.

The 14 kilometer road from Gegharkunik village to the town of Gavar remains the number one obstacle the family faces regarding Aghavni’s education. There’s no public transportation. When there is, the vehicles aren’t that accessible for people like Aghavni. Nevertheless, Aghavni believes that the road will one day connect her village to Gavar, the provincial capital.

Aghavni’s sister and brothers can’t remember the last time a concert or a play was performed in the village. Their mother reminds them of the time when a Russian travelling circus passed through. Not all children were able to enjoy it.

“Tickets were 500 drams each. I couldn’t afford sending all the kids, so I just got tickets for the youngest. We’re cut off from everything. Snow closes the roads in winter. In the summer, when the roads are clear, there’s no transportation. Our children have nothing to do,” says Meri.

Photos: Narek Aleksanyan

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